Rather than do the MVP for Game 6--doing a single-game MVP seems weird when they announce the series MVP themselves with a fair bit of pomp and ceremony--I thought we'd go bigger picture for today now that the Red Sox have won it all. This is not a question of World Series Game 6, or just the World Series (because there could be no competition), but the entire postseason run, and who we can thank first-and-foremost for getting this team all the way to the top.
The "ace" designation has long eluded Jon Lester. He's been good--great, even--for plenty of years, but he's never really managed to go over-the-top and put up the level of results expected of a true "ace". If opposing teams don't want to face him, they've rarely been terrified in the way one would be to face, say, Clayton Kershaw, or just about anyone in Detroit's playoff rotation.
2013 was no different during the regular season. He just didn't have that consistency. If his highs were high, his low was quite low, and extended. And then came that big "playoff" game in September against Max Scherzer, and suddenly things felt different. He earned himself the top spot in Boston's playoff rotation, and finally given the opportunity to show what he could do in that role over a full postseason, he delivered five starts, 35 innings, six earned runs, 29 strikeouts to eight walks. One hard-luck loss in a game where Anibal Sanchez and the Detroit bullpen held the Red Sox hitless through eight.
For the duration of the 2013 playoffs, Jon Lester was an ace in every sense of the word.
David Ortiz went 2-for-22 in the ALCS. That's awful even when you account for the fact that one of those two was the Grand Slam that saved the Red Sox in Game 2.
It makes it that much harder to believe that his full postseason line is .353/.500/.706.
The man who could not make an out in the World Series, of course, has contributions dating back to the ALDS as well. It's easy to forget--those games against the Rays seem so long ago--but it was Papi who crushed two homers off of David Price in Game 2. He scored twice in each of the first two games of that series, and then of course did what he did to save the Sox from an 0-2 hole in the ALCS.
But, really, it's all about the World Series itself for David Ortiz. A stunning 19 times on base, scoring seven times and driving in six in a series that saw Boston muster just 27 runs. And that's with Carlos Beltran robbing him of a grand slam in Game 1! The numbers are so ridiculous that in a few years someone's going to assume the scorer made a mistake and gave all of Boston's offense to Ortiz alone.
We all know Koji is good. Insanely good. But it doesn't really sink in until you look at his postseason totals just how much he did for the Red Sox:
13.2 innings pitched, seven hits, one run, zero walks, 16 strikeouts
Yeah, there was the Lobaton shocker. Who cares? This is, simply put, greatness. Koji Uehara threw the ball this year as well as anyone has ever done it. And he did it in the postseason as well. The Red Sox weren't blowing teams out of the water, but winning close, low-scoring games, making his contribution out of the pen more important than ever before. But when Koji came into the game? We all knew everything was gonna be alright.
Keith Foulke and Jonathan Papelbon set a high standard for Koji to meet, but he certainly made it there. More than either of those two, though, Koji made it an art form. He didn't blow batters away, he just threw them unhittable pitches, and then watched as they swung at them. That splitter may be the most beautiful sight of one incredibly beautiful season.
Let's call this the honorable mention category, because his numbers simply don't stand up to Lester's. But man, for all that Lester was the team's ace, it's John Lackey's duels I will remember best, starting with his ridiculous showing against Justin Verlander. There was a moment, maybe in the fourth inning, where it became apparent that Lackey was not simply hanging in there, but matching Verlander pitch-for-pitch.
As impossible as it might have been to believe, these two pitchers weren't in different classes. The John Lackey of old had finally made his way to the Red Sox in 2013, and this was the moment that really hammered it home. Two more duels against Michael Wacha only served to solidify that, even if he came up on the losing end in Game 2 when the bullpen let two inherited runners score.
He wasn't as good as Lester, but he might have been more memorable, somehow.